If the ski season left something to be desired for those visiting Summit County's resort communities, the lengthy golf season may have made up for it.
"We had a very good year," said Mark Nickel, director of golf at The Raven at Three Peaks Golf Club. "It helped to have an extended season. We opened in early April."
The days were busier and tee times filled more frequently, Nickel said, speculating that the heat in Denver likely helped drive people to the cooler temperatures of the mountains. Nickel also said a rate restructuring helped players find a reasonable rate to play, particularly if they were willing to play later in the day.
He wasn't the only one who reported gains on the 2011 season, which was shortened due to lasting snowfall from a record season.
Erroll Miller, the head professional at Breckenridge Golf Club, said that extreme heat in the center of the country and south to Texas - key markets for Summit County anyway - also contributed to driving people to the Central Rocky Mountains.
Nickel reported roughly 40 new members as well as day-to-day increases. Gains over 2011 were substantial, close to 25 percent higher. And the year's numbers were a small increase over average years.
That's saying a lot in a world of ebbing golf trends, said Miller, who also reported growth, though it was a more modest 5- to 6- percent increase over 2011.
"There's less golfers playing, and core golfers are playing less rounds, so there's a contraction of rounds played nationwide. Each of the last few years, it's been down a small amount," Miller said, adding that more golf courses are closing than opening across the country.
Keystone Ranch and River courses "had a very successful season," manager Steve Corneillier said, though he couldn't give percentages due to corporate policy. May 5 was the earliest golf has ever opened at Keystone, and though weather made maintenance tough at the start of summer, late summer rains brought the turf product to pristine condition.
"The dry season started last fall until January, when we started to get appreciable snow," Corneillier said. "We had an early spring, then it was hot, dry and windy through June. It was difficult to get the product to the level we'd normally have. ... We had significant rain in July, and the product came around and the experience was better."
Corneillier added that the rain came later in the afternoon or in the evenings, not posing a significant impact on business. Instead, it was welcomed to cool things off.
The Keystone Ranch course closed on Sept. 30, with the River Course following suit on Sunday. The closure is "right on target," Corneillier said, because significant work must be done before winter arrives, including passing the water rights baton back to mountain operations for snowmaking.
When asked if the golf course made up for a less-than-desirable ski season from a business standpoint, Corneillier admitted the golf revenue can't compete with that of the mountain. However, he repeated that it was a good summer, and he's hopeful - as are many others in the ski industry - that forecasts will continue to be favorable for a winter that rebounds to the level of business resorts in Summit County seek each year.
Copper Creek Golf Course closed on Sept. 30 with numbers that were competitive with 2011, business manager Lizzie Jones said.
"We were close to what we did last summer. It was pretty consistent," she said, adding that the summer started with "happy energy" surrounding golf in general - mostly, because the ski season was tough for locals. Season pass sales tracked roughly the same as 2011, and overall rounds were similar.
"The Copper Creek Golf Course had one of the earliest openings and had amazing amount of sunshine this summer," Copper spokeswoman Austyn Williams said. "The Copper Creek course crew commented that the course was well maintained all summer long and received feedback from appreciative golfers."
Elsewhere, like at The Raven cooler temperatures are causing play to slow down. Still, Nickel hopes to remain open through the middle of October, and maybe even as late as Oct. 21. GOLF RECAP